I have experienced loss in my lifetime. More times that I really could count, honestly. Each impacted me differently…but recently I have experienced a loss I never saw coming. It’s the kind that hits you deep down, to your core. The kind where you can feel your heart breaking. I have spent the past week in sorrowful grief like I have never known. So be patient with me and take a journey down memory lane as I remember perhaps one of the greatest men to ever live. I am not biased in this thought. His funeral alone was full of the hundreds of lives he had impacted who all shared the same sentiment. I was blessed to be this man’s granddaughter.
I have never met a man quite like my grandpa, or Gampy as we called him. Growing up, we lived about 4 houses down from my grandparents and I have the fondest of memories. Granny and Gampy worked as tobacco farmers for most of my childhood. While my parents worked, my brother and I spent our summer days at our grandparents’ home where we learned all about farming and the value of hard work. We have spent countless hours with them setting tobacco, stripping tobacco, and waking up in the middle of the night to go check on the barns. Granny was tough on Devin and I and did not let us skimp out on work…but Gampy would ease up and let us go play most of the time. We were so appreciative he stepped in to let us off the hook.
I can remember a while back; I was going through some of my things I have had in storage and I found an old diary of mine. I was curious about the things that young Lauren wrote about, so I sat down and flipped through the pages. I wrote in one “tonight I stayed at my Granny and Gampy’s house. Gampy and I had popcorn and coke. That’s our favorite snack”. I can close my eyes right now and envision myself sitting on their couch with him in his recliner, eating our popcorn and drinking our coke while he watched the news. Something so simple, but I remember it well. He always made time for us no matter how busy they were. I spent more nights at their house than I can count. We got off the bus from school at their home, had snacks, watched TV. It was the place to be, for sure.
As I have grown older, my closeness to both my Granny and Gampy has never faded. I would call several times a week to talk to them or drive down when I could and see them. Gampy didn’t like the phone much. I would call and he would say “you know Gamp loves ya but I don’t like the phone. Don’t hold it against me”. You just never had to doubt how loved you were. It was so evident in all the things he did. Whether it was the simplest act of eating popcorn and drinking coke, getting the sweetest hug and kiss, or him going above and beyond to make sure you were okay. After my car accident last year, he would ask nearly every week how I was managing my pain. He hated it happened to me and he always wanted to make sure I was okay. That’s just who he was. He had experienced back surgery and had metal in his back, so he knew the pain I had, but he was always more concerned with me and how I was. I could ask for anything and he was there to help me out without hesitation.
Man… was he the funniest. He could tell the silliest jokes. I still have no idea where he heard these jokes, but he would just laugh when he told them. He was also funny when he wasn’t even meaning to be. I have told this story a lot in the past week because it makes me laugh, and I have needed to laugh. But he was never much into technology, so when he and Granny got a laptop, he had no idea how to use it. One day I was over there and he asked me to bring the laptop with his instructions. I went to grab it and looked at his instructions and just laughed as I read “step 1: open lid”. I remember looking at him and asking, “surely you knew to open the lid first”, to which he replied, “ole’ Gampy ain’t smart with this stuff, I need it everything wrote down”. A few days before he passed away, he had Granny call me because he had accidentally deleted an app on his phone and needed me to tell her how to fix it. When we got it back on his phone, he said, “see that’s why we call you, you know what you’re doing” and then he told me he loved me. I just had no idea that would be the last time I would hear his voice or have my heart filled with an “I love you”.
Life can be so difficult like that. One moment you have it all…and the next moment it can all be gone. Man… I miss him so much. I have said quite a few times in the past week that death by illness can sometimes be easier. You have time to prepare your heart and say goodbye…but death by tragedy is something totally different. When I got the call that there had been an accident and he was being taken to the hospital, my brain never even thought of losing him. It didn’t even seem to be in the realm of possibilities. I was about halfway to the hospital when I received the second call telling me he didn’t make it. I immediately panicked and pulled over. Its weird how our minds have a hard time understanding permanency. How is it that he is gone? How is it that I will never hear one of his silly jokes or get another hug or kiss? I have had so many moments over the past week where it all just floods back in and I realize that he isn’t here. I always just thought I would have so many more years with him. I need more years with him.
So where is the peace? Where is the resolve? I find that in the fact that I know, without an ounce of doubt, that Gampy is in Heaven. He was so absolute in his faith. He was a true living example of a Godly man with a dedicated servant’s heart. He is at peace, living in the place he worked his whole life to be. He had the kindest soul and knew the Bible better than anyone I know. There are very few moments that I was over there that he wasn’t reading his Bible or at least talking about it. I must find peace in that. It’s what I must hold onto, until I see him again. I feel beyond blessed to have been his granddaughter. He loved me so much. I can see him now at their house, looking up at my photo on their mantel saying, “that’s my favorite picture of you”. I can hear his voice saying, “give ole’ Gamps a kiss right here” as he pointed to his cheek. He left an imprint on this Earth far beyond his own recognition. He would have been so humbled by all the countless kind words people have said about him. Somehow all these words don’t seem like enough to grasp who he was or what he meant to me. But, one thing is true, I loved him so much.
To my Gampy,
Thank you. Thank you for being the kindest man. Thank you for filling my life with so many beautiful memories and teaching me so many valuable lessons. My life was better because of you and the love you shared. I will forever eat our favorite snack and smile, because it was ours. I knew you were proud of me, and I know that even though you aren’t here, you will continue to be proud. I don’t know how to walk the road ahead without you here, but I know I can’t wait to one day walk into the place where I get to see you again. Until then, I will carry your love with me, use the memories to patch the hole in my heart, and love on my granny.
Love always, Chris.